Response to Dr. Schick

Dr. Schick has just demonstrated that even great thinkers make mistakes. In “When Homer Nodded,” Dr. Schick makes one major error and a number of smaller ones.

His great faux-pas is in implying that I might sometimes exhibit some wisdom. If that ever happens, it is clearly coincidental. Dr. Schick, on the other hand, has enhanced the community for decades with real wisdom, both in his astute thinking, and in his almost solitary insistence on hard data and serious study in understanding our community. In attributing any wisdom to me, he is guilty of classic projection.

Now for the minor errors.

I did not write that we are in the throes of class warfare. I reported on a groundswell of feeling of middle-class parents. You simply cannot deny feelings. They either exist or they don’t. In this case, arguably they do. If anyone had any doubts, the fact that we broke all records on comments (on a heavily moderated blog, which discourages mass participation!) demonstrates the breadth and depth of those feelings.

We have not yet arrived at class warfare, but I believe that we will, unless something is done. My great hope is that something will be done quickly, not only to ease the deep pain of many people, but because – in sharp contrast to some of the commenters who liked my piece – my goal is to see that the kollelim do not get hurt. More on this later.

Dr. Schick maintains that “overwhelmingly, the complaints are directed at individuals who aren’t rabbis or teachers or kollel members but rather at persons who are believed to have significant incomes but yet are able to pull the wool over the eyes of tuition committees.” This is simply not what a significant number of people across the country are saying. The complaints – justified or not – are finding their way to klei kodesh. I believe that this is true in no small part because of the number of families that have had to limit family size, while they see others blessed with larger families, but placing the burden of educating their children on the doorsteps of those no longer willing to open the door and take in the foundlings.

Dr. Schick writes that “in charedi institutions … there is great respect for klei kodesh.” I hope that is the case. I would like to see things stay that way. Unfortunately, we have arrived at a situation where more and more families see a kind of entitlement offered to klei kodesh that they are denied themselves. They sense that, in part, they are paying for that entitlement against their wills, with no choice in the matter. That seems horribly unfair. The feelings are there. There is no way to deny this. We can argue about how to deal with those feelings, and I suspect that my own preferences in that regard are close to those of Dr. Schick. I regard kollelim – especially those in out-of-town communities, and especially those (almost all!) that engage in serious kiruv rechokim and upbuilding of the core community – as the crown jewels of the Torah world. I don’t want to see them hurt or devalued in the eyes of the tzibbur.

Dr. Schick points to studies showing that the fertility rate in yeshiva families approaches that of chassidish families; both are higher than in the centrist community. Maybe so. Still, I see no reason to doubt what so many of us have heard (and is confirmed by commenters) that people who are in the working, non-klei kodesh parts of the Orthodox world (both right-wing MO as well as yeshiva) are painfully deciding to have fewer children than they would like to have. They understand the importance of the mitzvah, and they love children. But they are unwilling to have them when bederech hateva they can predict no way to afford them.

Pointing to indulgent lifestyles and inadequate levels of charitable giving and government funding as Dr. Schick does is just not very helpful in the short run. These are not going to change quickly enough to avoid the unfortunate conflict that we see brewing.

What can be done to stave off class warfare? Let me reiterate and reframe some of what we have learned from out contributors.

First and foremost, the feelings of injustice have to be acknowledged and dealt with. Every community is different. Dealing with the issue will vary from place to place. In all places, most change cannot occur overnight. Families that started their lives and careers on the basis of attitudes that prevailed just a handful of years ago should not become victims to changes that no one foresaw. There will have to be significant grandfathering. Practices like instituting minimum yearly tuitions (Lakewood style) with no exceptions should be considered, but they need to be eased in.

At the same time, protecting klei kodesh cannot take place on the backs of the unwilling. Increasingly, the middle class is unwilling.

Some changes need occur right away. We need to acknowledge that it is wrong to force people to pay for something that they are unwilling to pay for. School boards need to state it openly and plainly.

Some people took issue with terming what is happening to the full-tuition payers as “theft.” I am not so sure. The Chasam Sofer writes in a teshuvah that the poor of Europe who move to Israel to receive funds from the chalukah system are guilty of theft. There was a fixed amount of charitable funds available. New alms-seekers joining the rolls were stealing from the limited funds available for those who were already there. If stealing from the poor is gezel, so is stealing from the rich – or in our case, the middle class.

For decades, full-tuition parents knew that they were paying more than the actual cost per child, in order to cover for those who could afford far less. They did not balk at this, to their credit. As long as they didn’t, such a system was acceptable. This is no longer the case. Many people are no longer willing to pay more than their share, and do so only because they have no other acceptable chinuch option for their children. If we acknowledge this, we will begin to deal with the unhappy process of finding alternatives. This may mean cutting services, increasing class size, eliminating general studies departments and replacing them with online instruction, etc. No one will be happy with these changes, but the consequences will be shouldered equally and equitably. We cannot simply place the burden on one group of people because they are an easy mark. It is not appropriate for school boards to claim that they have no choice because they have to close a shortfall. They are going to have to find other ways, no matter how painful.

To adequately own up to the present inequities, it is necessary for schools to operate with complete financial transparency. That need not wait for the future. Schools can determine what the average cost per student is only after books are opened, and there is no room for creative accounting procedures. Additionally, in many cases there can be no real consideration of ways to scrimp and save unless all expenses and income can be examined by others, including the parent body.

Other changes will come later. They will have a much better chance of succeeding if we can remove some of the jealousy and the sniping. Yehi Ratzon me-lifnei Hashem that He guide us to a way in which we can restore the chinuch of our children to its rightful pedestal while holding on to the benefits of deep Torah learning in our communities – all in an environment of peace and cooperation.

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54 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    Klei Kodesh, wealthy conspicuous consumers, ……..whatever …… is not the issue. When someone is in pain they sometimes lash out at any available target.

    IMHO the issue is that as a group the orthodox community wants to provide a level of education for all its children that goes beyond the level of resources that the community as a whole wishes to allocate to education. This basic fact is exacerbated by the lack of a community structure which can make or enforce tough decisions on increasing the percentage of the community’s resources allocated to education or the areas where expenses will be cut. Failing such a structure, each community will reach its own stasis based on local conditions.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    We enjoy such a high standard of living, compared to previous generations, because of productivity gains. Education is one of the few fields where we haven’t made productivity gains yet.

    Is there a cheaper way to teach kids?

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    It is a pleasure to read Cross-Currents when the level of dialogue is so intelligent and relevant. I have a few thoughts. Here in Baltimore, we have a blossoming of new,small schools catering to a niche. For example, boys who can’t sit through a regular school day or handle lots of book learning.These boys would be lost in the regular yeshiva elementary school and would be in danger of becoming “at risk”.This is different from Ptach. These schools start small with minimal budgets the first few years. Then there is a phenomenon that is “under the radar” of the yeshivish community, the opening of Lubavitch yeshivos in many communities for their own teenage boys. In Baltimore, one frum baalhabayis purchased an out of business large shul building and it is now being used for 3 schools of a variety of types. I think part of the reason is that the regular system is not for everyone but also because the Kollelim are bursting at the seams with well qualified teachers who need jobs.If you can’t get hired, start your own school.Find a sub group that needs attention, get a few parents to help and it costs very little in the first years. While the older institutions have bases of support, the newer ones serve a purpose ,but have little financial grounding. Sadly, Yeshivat Rambam, whch served the centrist,zionist population very well for a number of yeras closed when its main funder made aliyah and its debt burden became overwhelming. The demographics did not support its budget. A repalcementg school openened renting classrooms in the JCC with the proviso that they would not get into debt and tht they would adjust the budget to pay all the bills and not over expand. They begin their second year with a new full time principal and I hope and pray they find great success and can pay their bills. The Federation in Baltimore has a program to help the day schools find ways to budget better, we are a very well organized communityh. But how many ways can you split the pot before we go under.

  4. Sholom says:

    While I do believe educators in Jewish institutions, community rabbis, should receive (within reason) tuition assistance as a fixed part of their benefits package, the sliding scale of benefits is what begins to defy reason.

    If you have a day school teacher who has 5 children, and sends his children to school free, at would otherwise be 12K a child, his effective pre-tax salary has been augmented by 60K. If he chooses to have 10 children, his pre-tax salary has been augmented by 120K. Based on what? Clearly not enhanced value to the marketplace.

    People can make sanctimonious appeals to the need for self-sacrifice amongst the middle class, but there is clearly something wrong when families earning between 50K and 200K are forced to experience identical physical standards of living. It is demotivating, and sends the message that hard work does not in fact pay off. The creation of the yetzer harah was called “tov m’oed” for a reason, and taking away an incentive for productive activity is rarely a good idea.

    Additionally the klei kodesh have their own benefits: improved Torah knowledge (often at least as much a by product of being born into a certain family, way of life, as much as it is a by-product of diligence), and a shidduch system that tends to give the most Jewishly committed spouses to these “learners.” The nachas they get from being conversant with Torah texts, living a life immersed in Torah (frequently on someone else’s dollar from day one–forget about after marriage and several children), and having spouses who are competent at running a Jewish household, and raising Jewishly educated children, are things they already have had the zchus to attain in their lives, greatly facilitated by the walk of life they were borne into. They experience this nachas in olam hazeh. Anyone who has experienced the happiness of immersion in Torah study knows what I am referring to.

    Those of us who came to Judaism in adulthood can only look on with envy. At least grant us the ability to enjoy our own advantages–what is often a better secular education, leading to a higher paying job. I have no problem with a graduated system for Jewish educational costs–I do not expect everyone to pay the same amount; as I stated a limited system of “perks” to make jobs in klei kodesh more attractive is certainly reasonable. But there are day school administrators that will squeeze every last drop from you–if you earn a raise, it is expected to all go to Jewish education. Take on a second part time job–give it all to Jewish education. This is unjust, and discourages productive activity, or attempts at improving one’s material wellbeing. Of course this creates an incentive to become part of the class of “learners,” since those of us who entered the learned professions frequently enjoy no better material quality of life, and certainly experience a reduced spiritual quality of life, insofar as we are not able to focus more on Torah study.

    I also take issue with the swipe at tzedakah contributions in the previous article. A family earning 150K, in one of our expensive urban centers, paying off significant student loans, with 5 children going to schools asking 12,000 per child has limited ability to give tzedakah. And to the extent that they are paying for other people to go to school, there tuition bill should be counted towards tzedakah, even if schools aren’t transparent about their books. I know according to certain hardliners in the Jewish community, being able to take a (non lavish) vacation, or give the children piano lessons may constitute unreasonable spending of funds that might otherwise be redirected towards tzedakah or Jewish education, but many of us feel otherwise.

  5. lacosta says:

    1– in some cases even the klaei kodesh are locked into the system. eg they teach in moderate school X , where they get education gratis for their kids. but they would rather have them in extremist school Y. they then have to put their children in a worse environment because that’s all tehy can afford….

    2– isn’t there a risk that any creative solutions will not pass muster with the askonim [ i use that phrase rather than daas torah, since the askonim are empowered to present the case to the gdolim to get the answer they want often…]

  6. SA says:

    Well, one way to teach kids more cheaply is to increase class size. A “regulation” class in Israel is up to 40 kids.

    Another one is to try to do some of the instruction by computer; I assume that in the general education system there’s some of that going on already that might be able to provide a model for, say, math teaching. But limudei kodesh?

    I must say that of all the comments I read on YA’s earlier piece, the scariest ones were the ones suggesting that some or all of the general studies curriculum be handled by sending kids to local public or “charter” schools.

    Who can even fathom such a thing?

  7. dr. bill says:

    Kollelim raise funds for worthy purposes. IMHO none is more worthy than supporting the yeshivot where their member’s children attend. If they saw it that way, they would pay the tuition (at least a large portion of the tuition) out of Kollel funds. If they are not, I would suggest their priorities need to be examined.

    As to the overall problem, while there is no complete solution, the application of some busines management principles, has been shown to have ~ 15% effect IIRC.

  8. Ken Applebaum says:

    As usual, Rabbi Adlerstein is right on point. My family is in the predicament he describes; after years of paying for and attending college and grad school, we are forced to pay for the “entitlements” of klei kodesh to our detriment. It is time for creative solutions to an unfair situation.

  9. anon1 says:

    I can’t say that I read all 100+ comments on the other post, so maybe this point was mentioned already — but instead of focusing on financial transparency and keeping tzedaka dollars local, why isn’t a serious part of the discussion whether it is fair, or even muttar, for the klei kodesh to have 7,8 or 10 kids that they cannot afford. Maybe the poskim for the klei kodesh need to weigh in on the value of large families built on someone else’s cheshbon — without asking that someone first. Or alternatively, maybe some of those people who want 8 or 10 kids don’t (or shouldn’t) necessary be in klei kodesh, but rather in a line of work where they can reasonably bear the cost of having those children. I say this not as someone who doesn’t value talmud Torah, large Jewish families and other Torah and halachic values, but rather as someone who is wondering why the other competing halachic values (a number of which RAdlerstein has raised, such as genevah) are not taken into account more seriously.

  10. Reb Yid says:

    SA wrote:

    “I must say that of all the comments I read on YA’s earlier piece, the scariest ones were the ones suggesting that some or all of the general studies curriculum be handled by sending kids to local public or “charter” schools.

    Who can even fathom such a thing?”

    This was, in fact, the norm in many communities, including NYC, earlier in the 20th century. Too bad there is such a social stigma attached to it today within Orthodoxy.

    Perhaps the Canfield public school situation in LA, alluded to in another thread, will become more normative across the country. Many Orthodox congregations or community Jewish education boards used to provide afternoon schooling in Orthodox institutions; perhaps this will be reinstituted as well in select situations.

  11. DF says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein has it right. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Schick, but he is simply wrong on this one, and, I say respectfully, a tad out of touch. His comments about Pesach vacations give it away – only a tiny fraction of orthodox Jews go on such trips, and often these people are such big ballei tzedakah that few people would begrudge them the right to spend on themselves too.

    No, as R.Adlerstein said, the resentment is towards those in kollel or chinuch, who are right fairly living large, while those around them struggle. No one wants klei kodesh to live in penury, God forbid. But that their children should be going to summer camps and wearing expenmsive clothing and for all intents enjoying lifestyles higher than working people who support them, is a serious affront.

  12. Micah Segelman says:

    “We cannot simply place the burden on one group of people because they are an easy mark.”

    Don’t we believe in progressive taxation in this country? Halacha advocates progressive taxation in some circumstances as well.

    I also strongly agree for the need for other ways to control costs without sacrificing quality besides expecting those who have more to subsidize those who have less.

  13. shira says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    I know that you truly are concerned about the state of our community. Your words have stirred up a debate that is not being held in the most responsible manner possible.

    I am a cynic, so when I read this post I wonder where the data is. Public policy cannot be set because of feelings. Many of your statements could be facts or just opinions. To make fruitful decisions, we need to know the objective facts, as difficult as those facts may be, so the correct changes can be made.

    So, are your assertions backed up by ANY data? Is there truly a groundswell of frustration that is leading to war? The comments are certainly indicative of such. However, comments on blogs are written by the most vocal and polarized of the readers. People also tend to be uninhibited in their emotional responses on blogs and only capture a transient mood. Comments also tend to feed off each other in hysteria. So I can’t trust comments to guage what was the the initial mood before a blog post.

    Did you do any surveys of any sample size and found that there is a majority or significant minority who want to repeal all discounts given to klei kodesh, including to the teachers in the schools? Or did you present your perceptions of current mood which now is resonating with people and becoming a populist view? Did you analyze school budgets and calculate what would be the impact of the change on tuition numbers? Would this change make tuition more or less affordable? Accountants and actuaries could run the numbers pretty easily.

    You make also very specific claims about tuition. There are many myths and half-truths about Jewish education that keep being carted out which don’t represent the facts on the ground. Did you survey the budgets of schools and find that the “full tuition” is actually greater than the cost per child to educate them? In what communities did you make this analysis? In many right wing communities, tuition generally comes in at a few thousand less per child than is actual cost. Ten thousand dollars per child is expensive but it still doesn’t cover what it costs to run a school.

    Dr. Harry Bloom with funding from The Avi Chai Foundation has collected data on over 40 schools in multiple metropolitan area on funding and spending patterns. Did you pick up the phone to confirm your suspicions? Or, are you observing your community and your social circle and extrapolating to the whole United States?

    I agree with you on one point. Schools need to be more transparent about how they operate. Parents and community members should be treated as adults and be made full partners in these difficult decisions. I think, just like Mesila did for personal finance, someone should begin to educate the general public what school finance entails. How much does maintenance cost a year? What happens if you neglect the building over the long term? How much does resource room help add to to the general tuition? How much does extra-curricular programming add to the tuition budget and does it meet the school’s mission and vision? This information will help the community decide where its priorities lie.

    I also agree that schools should open their books to outside auditors to determine whether they have any fat to trim or could consolidate any services. Luckily, this service is already available from competent professionals at the YU School-Partnership Initiative and has been done in over 40 schools. They are an independent task force that has the tools and training to do this bench marking work. If there is one positive that can come from this article, it is that parents should pressure their schools to have their books analyzed by an expert.

    To sum up, you may or may not be right in what you state here. It would have been more responsible and productive to have had data to back you up.

    [YA I, too, am a cynic. So I will ask you about your opening statement. “I know that you truly are concerned about the state of our community.” How would you know that? Have you interviewed me? Perhaps I’m a charlatan pretending to be a nice guy?

    What you did (and I thank you for it!) is made certain assumptions based on incomplete, anecdotal evidence. So did I!

    I do accept most of your main argument, however. Having data would be more productive. I don’t know if it is fair that it would be more responsible, because data isn’t cheap. It doesn’t come easily. (I noticed that you did not introduce and cogent data to shed light on the situation.) We don’t invest in data collection in our community. When we do, it is only after people have turned a topic into an areas of public interest and concern. The first step is always trading anecdotal evidence. If public debate can only begin once hard evidence is available, there will be no public debates. I wouldn’t call that “responsible.”

    Do I know that there are schools (notice, I used the plural) whose tuition is set well above the price-per-child? Yes, I do.

    The theme of my essay was not cures for the tuition crisis. It was that cures must take into account that the middle class is often extorted to pay for the education of others. That part of the picture, where it obtains, is wrong, and should be acknowledged as such.]

  14. Joe Hill says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein:

    Can you please elucidate what kind of “class warfare” you fear may occur in the future if things continue as is? Class warfare is a bit of a vague term. Specifically, if nothing changes, what kind of actions do you fear the middle class non-klei kodesh will take against the klei kodesh receiving the tuition subsidies? You said the middle class, out of town, have little choice where to send their children to Yeshiva. So what kind of class warfare can they possibly engage in if things continue unabated? IOW, if nothing changes, what can the middle class do about it anyways (even if regrettable and unfortunate)?

    [YA – As far as I understand, the legitimate complaints concern schools that give blanket reductions for klei kodesh. The upshot of this is that they are helped in having large families, while the costs of those families are passed on to the middle class parents in the same schools. In those schools where there is no multi-child discount, the parents who can least afford it, i.e. those with several kids, are asked to subsidize the tuition of others. I don’t know the best way to address the issue, but the complaint is legitimate. By class warfare I mean the expansion of a legitimate complaint into illegitimate complaints, and even wholesale contempt. It is unfortunately predictable, and we’ve seen signs of it here in some of the comments. That is what I would like to avoid.]

  15. Joe Hill says:

    “Practices like instituting minimum yearly tuitions (Lakewood style) with no exceptions should be considered, but they need to be eased in.”

    So you are indicating that Lakewood does not have this problem we are discussing? Then why not imitate Lakewood’s policies wholesale.

    Another thought: Most of the very Chasidish Yeshivos charge about $2,000 per year, per child! Now, admittedly, secular studies is sacrificed to a big extent. Yet, these children grow up into fine Yidden, certainly to at least the same extent as children graduating from Yeshivish and other non-Chasidish Yeshivos. So, perhaps, there is much to imitate from the Chasidish Yeshivos too, in how they reduce tuition to, literally, a fraction of what it is elsewhere. (There may be fundraising involved with the Chasidish Yeshivos too, that can be learned from.) As far as the secular studies, surely even adding on the cost of a better doesn’t raise tutition from $2,000 to $12,000. There is no need for uniform secular private-school style and cost secular studies.

  16. G. says:

    It seems that the syntax got somewhat garbled, but if I understand correctly, your point is when the klei kodesh seems to be able to afford luxuries that the middle class can’t.
    Perhaps a compromise is in order. It is true that klei kodesh may be living on tight budgets (I say may, because it sometimes seems that aside from klei kodesh living in utter penury, the others have ‘other sources of income,’ perhaps parents or grandparents). Why don’t klei kodesh participate in the same tuition committee review as others who can’t afford to pay full tuition? Then, those klei kodesh who have money for renovations, summer camps, and late-model cars can explain to the tuition committee why they do not have funds for tuition.
    Some may point out that the scholarship process can be humiliating, and our klei kodesh shouldn’t be subjected to that. I agree wholeheartedly. Neither our klei kodesh nor our middle class should feel humiliated because they cannot pay full tuition. If tuition committees become more respectful to accommodate our klei kodesh, it’ll be an added benefit.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    In general, is it possible for Jewish schools to publicly issue official pay scales for its employee positions, in which the total for each position includes salary, fringe benefits, and tuition subsidies? A school, once it opened its books and removed all waste, could cap the total for each position based on overall revenues and expenses. This doesn’t solve the problems, but at least puts them in better perspective. Those contemplating getting into chinuch or taking a new teaching job would have a more complete picture to guide their choices. Those who fund schools would have better clarity about where their money goes.

  18. Chaim says:

    Progressive taxation is fine, but not to the point that it discourages all future earning because it will be “seized” for tuition. Not to mention the fact that, for the non-klei kodesh, the tax is usually regressive; the more children one has, and therefore the less financially-equipped one is to subsidize others, the more “extra” tuition one pays. Even in schools with multi-child discounts, the discounts rarely cut out the subsidy altogether.

  19. Bob Miller says:

    Joe Hill wrote above, “There is no need for uniform secular private-school style and cost secular studies.”

    Shouldn’t Jewish school systems at least determine and provide the type and amount of secular education needed to put community income in synch with expenses, so as to avoid dependency on Uncle Sam?

  20. DF says:

    G. – yes, I agree with you. There seem to be alternatives to tuition boards. Like paying 18% flat rate of your adjusted gross income, assuming your tax return represents your full income. Or only scheduling such hearings for people requesting very steep reductions. No one likes to do it, and it should be avoided as much as possible. But if it has to happen, then all people should be equal before it. And for mechanchim, not only the tax returns from the relatively few hours in their school day should be examined. Often klei kodesh get income from tutoring, teaching bar mitzvah lessons, or summer camp work. Rabbis get income from many sources, like marrying, burying, selling chametz, etc. And there is a value attached to parsonage as well.

    [By the way, this entire discussion is very much reminiscient of what happened in Wisconsin. The old expression is that “as the goy goes, so goes the yid.” The teachers and public employees are roughly [ROUGHLY!] equaivalent to the teachers and mechanchim. Rabbi Walk – Rabbi Adlerstein is just articulating the correction that must and inevitably will happen.]

  21. shira says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    You said that our community does not collect data. I mentioned in my comment that the YU School-Partnership Initiative has been spearheading the collection of this kind of data that would have shed some light on your complaints. If you google “Yeshiva University Affordability” you can find an email and phone number. Torah U’Mesorah has recently begun a certification program in fundraising to help train administrators in day school finance and management. The phone numbers for their experts are on the web. If you google “day school affordability” there are multiple links to case studies and other research from national and local organizations about this issue. There was a two part article published by the OU in the HaModia that was grounded in research. All the contact information for these individuals is easily obtainable.

    The input of the above individuals would have been helpful in framing the conclusions in the article. Instead of being inflammatory, the article could have been informative. It could have inspired individuals to take action rather than to panic.

    I am not sure that “our community” does not “collect data.” As I’ve pointed out, the data is there. I think as a community we let our media get away with writing articles that are weak on facts and research. Writing an article without evidence is not starting a debate, it’s rhetoric.

    Perhaps it is time for someone to write an article about what is happening to our community because we are reading so many articles that have no facts but are intended to start debates.

    As for your other point, you know of some schools, perhaps because you have seen their budgets, where tuition is set higher than yearly expenses. I can counter with my own anecdotal evidence of multiple schools whose tuition rates are set lower than their yearly expenses. Neither of our experiences should make any difference in the debate because we don’t know which policy is better for the families or the schools in the long run. No data, no conclusions. (Check out this guide that supports that there are plenty of schools undercharging)

    You wrote an essay where your goal was to state that the middle class is being extorted. I still ask – based on what evidence. It is painful what tuition is doing to middle class families. There is no way to afford tuition. Changes need to be made. But, there might not be bad guys to blame.

    Just as an FYI, to encourage anyone who is still reading this long comment, there has been significant movement to address this issue. After I read your article, I made a few phone calls and found out about the numerous individuals and organizations who are scrambling to upright the communal infrastructure that is collapsing. Some of them were mentioned in my first paragraph.

    It was inspiring to learn how many people are working to create a strategic plan for a long term fix. It was even more inspiring to find out that the people who are making a difference are not “the rabbanim” or “askanim” but regular middle class people who cared enough to get involved . It’s kind of cool to know that the option is out there. The system didn’t break overnight and it may take a few years to get it to where it should be but there are regular people who are trying to do something.

    Cross-currents has always been about communal leadership through productive conversation. I hope it continues to serve as that kind of platform.

    [YA – I hope you are right, and that the YU Partnership project will bear some fruit. I went to the website as you suggested, but could find no evidence that it was collecting any data that could have shed any light on the central topic of my essay. Nor could I find anything to suggest that the project had penetrated the haredi school system, which was the focus of the essay. I know of no Torah Umesorah effort in that direction, nor could there really be one, without fiscal transparency. That commodity is sorely lacking in the haredi world. I remain thoroughly unconvinced that anything could or should have forestalled publishing the piece, other than the very different argument that silence is better than stirring up a hornet’s nest. Those who argue that may be correct, but I am skeptical about very much of anything getting accomplished in the right of center world without it first becoming a topic of much discussion.]

  22. Avi says:

    There is another aspect to the resentment specifically aimed at teachers, administrators, kollelniks, Rabbis, and others working in jobs facing the community: they don’t work as hard or have to make the lifestyle sacrifices those working outside the community do. Worse, many of them complain about how hard they work for such little pay (or how little their stipend covers). In fact:

    a) In most cases, they don’t work as hard or as long as those with “non-frum” jobs. This does not apply to pulpit Rabbis who work 24×7, but the rest of the group… You know what, dedicated teacher who I love love love? No, really, I LOVE you. You’re an awesome teacher and you work very hard, and you bring out the greatness in my kids and I *genuinely* appreciate it. But… I work much longer hours in the office than you do. And, yes, I know you bring work home – but so do I, AFTER I’ve worked those longer hours. I’m basically NEVER done, and if I slack off, I’ll be laid off both because the economy is terrible, and because (despite the nonsense our kids are sometimes taught) there are exceptionally smart and nice and ambitious non-Jews out there who have spent their entire lives focused on getting the job I have (the job I desperately need to keep). And some of us are on the road all the time, which is exhausting and hard on family life. And some of us have massive student loans to repay. And many of us have longer commutes than you do.

    b) They don’t have to make the same lifestyle sacrifices. They’re off the same time their kids are off from school for flag day or whatever. They’re home when their kids get home each day and don’t need to scramble for afternoon childcare coverage. They take actual vacations – even if they are frugal ones – because they have actual vacation time unlike the rest of us who use up every last vacation day on yom tov even before accounting for all the gaps in school coverage before/after camp and during the school year. During the winter, when we need to work on Saturday night and Sunday to make up for short Fridays, they don’t – their workday ended at least 2 hours before Shabbos. They never have to deal with keeping kosher during business lunches or dinners, juggling work schedules and asking colleagues for favors to cover chaggim, trying to schedule business trips around chaggim or Shabbos — or being stuck away from the family over Shabbos when it doesn’t work out. Again excepting pulpit Rabbis, none of them have ever had to pull 48 hour shifts or have the oneg-Shabbos-ruining stress of being on call like doctors. They never have to deal with conference calls with non-frum Jewish colleagues who are in a different time zone where it’s already Shabbos for them, or having to assign them to cover a trade show on Shabbos.

    c) And then they complain about poor pay, but ignore the material benefits: the tuition breaks, parsonage, shorter hours, and/or government services THAT I’M PAYING AND SACRIFICING FOR. I might also mention that I’m paying their base salary, too.

  23. Curious says:

    There is a lot of talk about the “middle class” and I’m curious about the actual financial numbers.

    How much pre-tax income does a household actually need to support 7-8 kids in the New York frum community, including,

    1) Tuition (and/or childcare if both parents work)
    2) Food (including shabbosim, pesach, etc), clothing, healthcare (premiuims, deductibles, co-pays) for 9-10 people
    3) Housing (mortgage payment)
    4) Basic retirement saving plan
    5) Car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance)
    6) Childcare
    7) Other expenses (utilities, books, appliances and electronics, occasional leisure activites, smachos, maybe some form of summer camp or bungalow colony, occasional family vacation or travel to see relatives – not nec fancy european vacations or pesach hotels)
    8) Tzedaka, shul dues, etc

    Wouldn’t all this run at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars? And how many “middle-class” professions actually pay that much, unless one of the spouses is a successful businessperson, a hedge fund manager, or a lawyer for a big firm? I mean, not every middle class job pays six figures.

    So even if there were no Klei Kodesh and tuition came down a bit, is the current frum lifestyle really affordable to the average working professional?

  24. Even handed says:

    I read this article and these comments with interest. If there is a shortcoming to this post, it is that it addresses a small snippet of a larger picture. We have established a norm for the yeshivish/chassidish communities that is impossible to sustain. I believe we have bankrupted ourselves as individuals, families, mosdos of chinuch, and as communities. We either branded secular education as treif in our elementary and high schools, or decried college as anoption, ever. We view kollel life as the ideal goal for every young couple. Our girls are openly taught to seek a learning boy. Bochurim are brainwashed against anything but career learning. These ideals will be lauded by any and all, but we then seek their financial input into the “system” 20 years later, shocked that we birthed a generation of takers, who continue to survive off the tzedokos of the community. We have a minority of those who invest into the system. I cannot believe that the gedolim, such as Rav Aharon Kotler ZT”L, planned on this.

    Instead of crying over this, I would hope that some thinkers examine for ways to reverse the trend, without damaging the proliferation of Torah learning.

  25. Ori Pomerantz says:

    SA: Another one is to try to do some of the instruction by computer; I assume that in the general education system there’s some of that going on already that might be able to provide a model for, say, math teaching. But limudei kodesh?

    Ori: It depends on the exact skills you teach within limudei kodesh. Rosetta Stone is pretty successful with language teaching – why not adapt the same methods to Tanachic Hebrew, Mishnaic Hebrew, and Talmudic Aramaic? Mishnah study includes a memorization component – why can’t a computer help with that?

  26. shaulking says:

    For the record our Metropolitan NY school is $175,000 in debt due to ‘full-paying’ parents who are currently unemployed, let go or down-graded in their professions. So now we have even the scholarship parents covering their tuitions.
    BTW many one-parent families can not pay full tuition either…

  27. Eric Leibman says:

    One of the points I have heard made a number of times is that, in essence, some families are being asked to subsidize the educations of other families, and that this is unfair. One small part of the solution is something that I routinely attempt to advance in my own community: Convincing people who don’t have kids, or who are retired, that they have an obligation and responsibility to do their part to help support the school. For example, I know one fellow, divorced, one kid in high school lives with her mother, and he has a very good job. I know him from my minyan, I persuaded him to come to the school’s first annual dinner, he made a pledge when asked and then paid it. AND, he took one of our tzedakah cans, which has resulted in several hundred additional dollars for the school. And he will probably donate more over the years. I have similar success stories with a fair number of people who have never been asked. I have many more people who fit this demographic profile yet to ask.

  28. L. Oberstein says:

    Why would any intelligent young man choose a career in Jewish Education if he is to be underpaid and then subjected to disrespect and abuse?”income from tutoring, teaching bar mitzvah lessons, or summer camp work. Rabbis get income from many sources, like marrying, burying, selling chametz, etc. And there is a value attached to parsonage as well” makes it sound like selling chometz makes one a gvir, what world are these critics living in? Rebbes chose their careers because they love Torah and want to teach it. I just did an in depth article on the Ner Israel Kollel for our newsletter. Everyone I interviewed had a college degree, several had passed the CPA exams and they had chosen to learn Torah and seek teaching positions out of love for Torah, not to enrich themselves by selling chometz and giving Bar Mitzvah lessons. I think that the level of anger and abuse heaped on talmidei chachomim by some of your contributors shows a deep seated animus and is a disgrace. That is my humble opinion. They are going too far!

    [YA – They are indeed! It is always a tough call whether to censor comments that an editor finds really over the top and offensive, or to allow them, and have readers understand how good arguments can dangerously slide into extreme and abusive ones. (I tend towards the latter approach; some of my colleagues to the former. I have no idea who is correct.)

    Not only have some of the arguments against klei kodesh been mean-spirited and vindictive, they entirely fail to come to terms with the advantages bestowed upon communities by klei kodesh and their children. When my kids were in elementary school, a great number of parents looked for all kinds of ways that their children could be in the same class as those of klei kodesh, because they brought up the level of seriousness and proper behavior. I have seen kollelim transform community after community, jump-starting their move to much more intense engagement with learning and halacha. We do not want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. All that the people behind my original article wanted was some recognition that paying for the substantial costs associated with these invaluable benefits must be borne more equitably – not as a tax on parents already overtaxed.]

  29. Esther says:

    For the record, many kollelim have NO such sweet deal with the local day school and receive NO special tuition package. Like us. (To generalize, the “Lakewood” type out-of-town kollelim generally have this benefit, whereas the “community” type kollelelim do not.) People in my community automatically assume we get this perk, and are incredulous to the point of disbelief when I tell them otherwise. Articles like this (while I agree with the salient points) need to make clear that NOT ALL kollelim receive this perk.

    [YA – You are entirely correct, of course. It is clear that there is a wide disparity in practice between schools. What can be said with accuracy is that the middle class is choking (not the chidush of the current topic), and that in some cases, its members have a legitimate complaint that they are being asked to shoulder a responsibility which, however important (and count me among those who think it is super-important to protect the kollelim), should not be placed upon them.]

  30. mycroft says:

    “I know of no Torah Umesorah effort in that direction, nor could there really be one, without fiscal transparency. That commodity is sorely lacking in the haredi world.”
    Sadly there is not much more fiscal transparency in many MO schools-use Guidestar to check how few file 990s.
    “, but I am skeptical about very much of anything getting accomplished in the right of center world without it first becoming a topic of much discussion.”
    I am likewise skeptical of much changing in the center and left of center world without much publicity.

    “In general, is it possible for Jewish schools to publicly issue official pay scales for its employee positions, in which the total for each position includes salary, fringe benefits, and tuition subsidies?”
    Why not-forms 990 require such information for the top paid individuals.

    “There is a lot of talk about the “middle class” and I’m curious about the actual financial numbers.”
    Agreed-it is my impression that what bloggers call middle class is upper income. Perhaps people discuss what income level they believe should one have to be able to live a bare essential non chareidi Orthodox lifestyle and then compare what percent of the population could afford it.
    1) “How much pre-tax income does a household actually need to support 7-8 kids in the New York frum community, .”
    Why limit the question to 7-8 kids-how about even 1 or 2 kids and see what percent of HS/College Grads can live an Orthodox lifestyle.
    “Wouldn’t all this run at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars? And how many “middle-class” professions actually pay that much, unless one of the spouses is a successful businessperson, a hedge fund manager, or a lawyer for a big firm? I mean, not every middle class job pays six figures.”
    Why limit ourselves to middle class jobs-why should a Starbucks manager for example not be allowed to be Orthodox.
    “So even if there were no Klei Kodesh and tuition came down a bit, is the current frum lifestyle really affordable to the average working professional”
    .” Everyone I interviewed had a college degree, several had passed the CPA exams and they had chosen to learn Torah and seek teaching positions out of love for Torah, not to enrich themselves by selling chometz and giving Bar Mitzvah lessons”
    That may be what they believe=but it is far from obvious that there are not many mechanchim who do better financially than many people who have passed the CPA exam.
    .” Did you survey the budgets of schools and find that the “full tuition” is actually greater than the cost per child to educate them? In what communities did you make this analysis?”
    Without transparency, it is difficult to make the analysis-but one can do pro forma analysis by taking tuition by number of children in classes and figuring out budgets. Just did a quick two school search for tuition on Internet-Yeshiva Univ HS is a little bit more than $22000, Maimonides School in Boston between 18000 first grade and 26,800 HS-I did not add various fees to these amounts.

  31. Elijah says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for writing such a thoughtful and sensitive article that gives air to feelings that many laymen have had bottled up for some time.

    I have 2 points I would like to share. One is a response to all those who have posted about the “easy” life of mechanchim. The second is in support of the sentiments expressed by the type of laymen who are the inspiration for Rabbi Adlerstein’s important article:

    1. As a long-time member of the days-chool chinuch workforce, I can attest to a few anecdotal facts: Yes we do get off of teaching classes when our children are off from school. Yes, the schools give us tuition breaks. Yes, we can claim parsonage. Yes, we do not subsidize others’ tuition through inflated tuition rates. Yes, when school is in session many of us work 100 hour work weeks regularly. Yes, we are always on duty, even on Shabbosos and Yamim Tovim, if the situation demands. Yes, we work Sundays. Yes, we are under the scrutinizing and discriminating eyes of everyone in the community. Yes, we are the subject of many a Shabbos table discussion. Yes, our salaries do not increase with the rate that our expenses grow. Yes, we are easily replaceable by younger, less experienced, Rebbeim, with smaller families. Yes, because of the above, the schools have the advantage regarding salary negotiations, job assignments, and whether they’ll honor our requests or complaints as parents regarding our own children who attend the same schools we work at. Yes, we get off for summers, and need to work during these “vacations” in order to offset our deficits and in order to be prepared for the next school year (since our work assignments are constantly evolving with no recourse.)

    Anyone who tries to single out the mechanchim of the institutions that are inflating the tuition rates as the freeloading culprits is grossly ignorant of the demands of a mechanech’s job and the lifestyle that he leads. No mechanech has it easy.

    2. That being said, we all know that the basics of a Jewish community are a school, mikve, and shul, in that order. (Kosher food can be imported) The other Kodesh organizations such as a vaad hakashrus, Kollel, or Kiruv organizations are icing on the cake. If the local day school must give a special rate for all local klei kodesh then we are effectively using the day school as the method of funneling funding for all local kodesh institutions.

    Why can’t the schools have a policy that the employees of kodesh institutions(except for those of the school itself) must pay full tuition? This would force those institutions to pay their employees a salary that will take care of their tuition at the day schools. This would force the powers behind these “icing” kodesh institutions to prioritize and hire only according to their means. This would also prevent outsiders from moving in and opening up shop with new shuls or institutions with the presumptive belief that they do not need to fund-raise for themselves as much since they can rely on getting a klei kodesh break.

    I ask any community leaders who are against such a policy one question: Why not do it? Is it in order to coerce tzeddaka out of those who you do not expect to support your other institutions? Is it because you do not want to give more than you are already giving to institutions that you feel are necessary, but deep down you suspect that others do not agree with how much you value these other institutions and therefore you feel no choice but to subsidize these other organizations through inflated tuition rates?

    It is very easy then to point fingers and say “You (less powerful laymen) have no say since you have not shown a track-record of being givers in the community!”, while in actuality you have been forcing them to pay so much tuition that they do not have much left to give directly to other local institutions. It sounds like a form of bullying to me!

  32. lacosta says:

    as grandparents help their children with the tuition burden, the pool of tzedaka dollars shrinks…..

  33. Curious says:

    “ ‘So even if there were no Klei Kodesh and tuition came down a bit, is the current frum lifestyle really affordable to the average working professional’

    Certainly I agree with you! I was just pointing out that EVEN for average middle-class professionals, the current frum lifestyle for large families seems to be unaffordable, even if tuition would be somewhat lower. Kal V’Chomer for lower-income “working class” families, which as you rightly point out deserve just as much a place in their communities, And indeed, with the lack of education and professional development in the yeshivos, doesn’t it seem likely that the next generation will have a higher proportion of lower-income workers? Indeed, many Brooklyn area “black hatters” of the previous generation had good college and even graduate school educations and successful professional careers. Will the same be true of their children who are now learning in Kollel?

    I don’t understand the economics/finances of this whole modern system, namely how the frum community is going to continue to generate the revenue to pay the ever-increasing bills of the contemporary frum lifestyle; the controversy of tuition reductions for klei kodesh that R’ Adlerstein brings up seems to be but one specific symptom of a potentially much larger mess.

    I also agree with mycroft that it would be very instructive exercise for people to think about how much income is required to live a comfortable-but-not-luxurious middle class lifestyle for a frum family these days, and then to figure our what percentage of families in the community actually can bring in that much income.

  34. Formerly Orthodox says:

    To reiterate what “Curious” has stated in more eloquent terms above, I don’t see how the current system in which future generations of Orthodox Jews will have more “learners” than “earners” is ultimately sustainable. Just as in the case of humanity and the planet in general, we are using up our limited resources.

  35. Benshaul says:

    i am going to try to make a few comments, hopefully w/o being raked over the coals as i was the last time:) . Rabbi Adlerstein writes that he knows of schools where the tuition charged is higher than actual cost per child. Its hard to argue with facts, but i wonder if that is true outside of LA . The schools i know DONT. In those schools- if the cost per child is X, and there are 22 kids in the class-lets even assume those 22 are all paying full tuition- adding 2 more kids to the class doesnt “cost” more! it actually brings the cost down by whatever amount they pay.

    Finally -one of the more over the top attitudes that was coming thru in the comments on Rabbi Adlerstein’s first post has now been expressed outright; Eugenics!!! yes you read it right-we are now in the business of telling klei kodesh how many children they can have or NOT. Why stop there. lets make a rule that anyone earning less than 100k annuallly can only have 3.2 children, after all- who will pay for them to get married, for their chasunah expenses, never mind their college fees or elementary education. REALLY.

    Anyone who cant see the absurdity of where some of the comments are taking us …..

    In all seriousness, while the challenge of the cost of tuition is a big one, I echo Shira in asking for the research to justify the post, and all the hoopla it has generated. Where i live the local Federation and other scholarship grants given to the dayschoolls earn the schools MORE money on the lower income children than children whose parents are paying 50% to 75% of full tuition. And where schoolls have capped tuition at “x” percentage of income -no one feels being taken advantage of!!!

  36. Orthonomics says:

    Benshaul-While there probably are smaller schools with a different scholarship rate, I’ve been reading tuition articles for a number of years now and it is pretty well known that the most schools have at least half the students on scholarship. While you are correct that adding child to an already existing classroom doesn’t “cost” more than their variable cost, I disagree that there is no real cost because it is near impossible to contract schools and staff if the expectation is to educate all. A 20 or even 30% rate of scholarship shouldn’t have a large marginal cost. A 75% rate of scholarship students most certainly does.

  37. Bob Miller says:


    The opinion voiced by some about educators has to do with limiting the number of tuition waivers per family, based on a school’s finances. This is analogous to economic constraints that prevent full tuition payers from expanding their incomes.

    Whether it’s the full tuition payers or the educators who feel pressured to limit family size, the limiting factor either way is their own reaction to their economic situation, not eugenics. No one has been or will be ordered to limit family size!

  38. DF says:

    “some of the arguments against klei kodesh been mean-spirited and vindictive”

    Inflation and over-use has caused that last phrase to become an empty cliche, a defense tactic used to attack a (presumed) motive behind a charge, when one cannot respond to the merits. I, for one, have no reason to be vindictive against anyone, and of my many vices, have never been accused of being mean or mean spirited. The points I made of alternate income sources for klei kodesh, also made by others, are no more “mean spirited” than the article by R. Adlerstein that prompted them. The same is true of the points others made of the relatively easy lifestyle enjoyed by those in chinuch. Rabbi Adlerstein correctly identified an issue of class warfare (a term I dislike) that’s been bubbling just beneath the surface for a long time. If that issue is going to be resolved, then all of the problems causing it will have to be examined, including the disparity these comments highlight. Hiding from the issue by calling the contributors “mean-spirited” is hurtful and counterproductive.

  39. meir says:

    Why do you consider it absurd to expect people to be responsible with respect to the obligations they impose on others? i happen to think that 3.2 children may be too many kids for those who make less than 100k, unless they have alternative support streams. Can you provide back-up to your position that you can father as many children as you like in the name of “pru urevu” without considering how to provide for them? what about the limits on spending required with respect to any mitzvas Aseh, one can’t give away all of his money to charity (and of course one can’t take other people’s money away top give it to charity). so why do you assume such a rational consideration isridiculous without any support? Would you take out a second and third mortgage and write a check for a few million to keep my local yeshiva going? After all, I’m sure you have the same “emunah” that Hashem will cover any such mitzvah expenses, and hey, the tuition crisis will be solved!

    It seems clear that a mitzvah lekiyuma must be rationally limited, so once you have your two, i don’t see why one can selfishly choose to steal from his neighbor in order to get some more nachas (than such neighbor, who may actually care for his community and the future of the Jewish people).

    As an aside, are you a believer in no histadlus ala R’ Shimon Bar Yochai (vis a vis his argument with R’ Yishmael as to learning Torah without material occupation/hishtadlus for parnasa)? even if you consider yourself one of the chosen few who can accomplish such a miracle (as a limited minority of the jewish kehila), you do know that the Gemara concluded that the majority needs to do hishtadlus, and the many who tried to follow R’ Shimon’s approach failed! so how can you espouse this as a normative approach?

  40. Avi says:


    1. I never said that life as a teacher was easy, just that, in several crucial respects, working inside the community is easier than working outside the community. Furthermore, as your response indicates, many communal workers don’t acknowledge this and instead complain about how rough they have it. I’m just pointing out that those complaints don’t go over well with the people paying the salaries for communal workers, covering the free or discounted tuition for communal workers, and allowing the communal workers to do things that they themselves cannot do.

    2. As long as schools have a policy that they will not turn students away for lack of payment, it really doesn’t matter that much whether there is official tuition for communal service members or not. Faced with a bill for a service they cannot afford, they will just ask for scholarship. Where does scholarship money come from? People who work outside the community.

  41. CJ Srullowitz says:

    For DF to refer to the “relatively easy lifestyle enjoyed by those in chinuch” is, to this Jew, laughable. Relative to what? I find that most (though not all) mechanchim are dedicated and hard-working; I don’t view their lifestyle as easy, relative or otherwise. What I believe is offending most people is their picture of mechanchim. Amohl (circa 1980), rabbeim were paid pauper’s wages; they were truly moser nefesh to teach Torah. Today their pay is decent and many come from families of means (i.e., their parents didn’t discourage them from chinuch – because the family had money to keep them afloat!). This offends those who believe that the rebbe should struggle. “How can it be,” they ask themselves “that I, the working class baalabus, am struggling more than the mechanech?!”

    I also find it interesting that no one has substantively differentiated the klei kodesh of chinuch from the klei kodesh of rabbanus. It seems that most people are more “forgiving” of the rabbinate, which they see as a position of stature and deserving of more financial perks. I think it goes back to something Dennis Prager said about the difference between the college professor and the preschool teacher: professions that deal with adults are seen as sophisticated; professions that deal with children are perceived as childish.

  42. Yeshiva World Observer says:

    So here is the “plan”, simple yet hard to implement.

    1. Every school must undertake an annual financial audit by outside auditors. Financial transparency must be the rule.
    2. Establish a reasonable minimum tuition per child (ala Lakewood) and everyone must pay that minimum “no and, ifs, or buts.”
    3. Cap the free tuition’s as follows. The first two children are free. Every additional child is 50% of what the expected tuition would be.

  43. BenShaul says:

    “i happen to think that 3.2 children may be too many kids for those who make less than 100k”

    to respond -As I wrote in my other comments, i don’t presume to be a big enough baal hashkofo to even enter the debate of family planning for financial reasons. I will let everyone ask their LOR. Dittos for the Hishtadlus question. I know of very choshuveh poskim who held of taking a break between children -but i never heard of financial considerations -especially as long term as college or weddings, being part of the halchic basis. If someone does know of it please let us know.

    I want to focus on the other part of your comment. “i don’t see why one can selfishly choose to steal from his neighbor in order to get some more nachas”
    This is the crux of the matter IMHO. STEAL????? Who is stealing? From Who? Did anyone, can anyone, obligate you to support the wedding cost of the poor that you can call it stealing? Oh, that’s right, we say it in davening every morning -Hachnosas Kallah.
    In all seriousness; absent the schools where Rabbi Adlerstein tells us the cost of tuition is MORE than the actual cost; contributions are solicited NOT forced, to support the scholarship fund. And we still dont have a kehilla tax, so no-one is forcing anyone to support the charities you dont like.
    on another point-
    There is this attitude in some of the comments that assume that my happiness is determined by what the other has. Why are you looking in yenems shopping cart.

    A more sophisticated analysis of the cost per student, the cost borne by full paying parents, and the percentage of that cost to the school needs to be done. Additionally -some hard facts about what are the realities of the schools in different cities would be helpful in assuaging some of the emotions that are being expressed here.

  44. EF says:

    Here is a beautiful clip of The Lubavitcher Rebbe addressing this very issue.

  45. shlomo zalman says:

    After reading almost all comments, “Even Handed” has come closest to hitting the nail on the head.

    The major issue is the “sense of entitlement” that the klei kodesh have developed over the last generation. When one segment supports another, the giver is happy to give as long as there is some sort of appreciation or at least acknowledgment from the receiver. If however the receiver feels “magia li”, the goodwill is lost and resentment sets in. The fact that the yehshivas have been tenaciously teaching that only Torah learning is acceptable and making a living by working is unacceptable, the feelings of resentment by the supporter are legitimate and almost inevitable.

  46. DF says:

    CJ Srullowitz – How many hours does a rebbi work? Let’s not talk about prep time, because 1) all professions work outside of business hours, and 2) there’s not that much prep time needed to teach the same Gemara and Chumash you’ve been teaching for 10 years. So do the math. How many hours is the rebbi in the classroom, vs. how many hours the professional is in the office? I dont even need to factor in summer vacation, full 8 day yomtovs twice a year plus chanukah break, etc. Talk about “laughable.”

    Re the distinction between rebbi and rabbi – there may be something to your point about the different levels of sophistication between the two jobs. But consider also that most rabbis have much busier schedules, at least the good ones in larger congregations do. If a Rabbi has a large congregation and fulfills all his roles consciensciouly, then he is much busier than a rebbi. A rabbi of a small shtiebel of young men [becoming more common, but that’s a different issue] – is different, and should and usually is compensated much differently.

  47. abe1 says:

    Personally as a professional paying an exhorbitant amount of tuition (thanking Hashem every day for the children whose tuition I pay, while grimacing at the ever increasing bills), I do not really see tuition breaks for klei kodesh as a problem. I am not a rebbe or a Rav but I know that unless I stand in their shoes there is no way I can accurately measure their sacrifices. Perhaps there are some who abuse the system; however there are some people of all walks of life who do that, and it is not appropriate to judge entire classes of people by the few miscreants and advantage-takers among them (and that means the snippy comments about some people over-spending for Pesach hotels are also not at all instructive or helpful (its a sterotype, Dr. Schick). All that said, I do stand in my own shoes; so the quiet unrecognized sacrifices of struggling professionals I can understand. And frankly, overt recognition of those sacrifices is warranted. Hakaras Hatov is not a one way street and unless it flows both ways resentment will build. And so Rabbi Alderstein’s article is worthwhile because it recognizes the reality of a group whose struggles need to be recognized (if only because such recognition makes it easier to shoulder the important burden) and also because it is fostering a discussion that is leading to practical suggestions to reduce the burden. As an aside, in light of recent concerns about unity, can we not ALL get behind a unfied movement to find solutions to these issues (rather than numerous ad hoc localized movements, some of which are more or less successful than others. Do we have a central qualified person somewhere in some organization whose job includes sifting through all of the comments and suggestions here on Cross Currents, and everywhere else where this discussion is being had with true dedication, to try to create and implement practical suggestions. I mean one central person or committee. Maybe this exists already -I don’t know. (I’d say solving communal problems should also make someone klei kodesh; and I’d be happy for their children to receive free tuition while they work at this important job).

  48. Orit says:

    A principal in my kids’ NJ yeshiva told us when we came in as new parents:
    “It costs me $6800 per child. So tuition in $7800 per child. Half of the parents don’t pay in full. Some pay nothing, some pay half, some get a discount.”
    According to that model, in a class of 25, the costs to run the class, including the teachers’ salaries and share of the staff salaries (secretary, principal, janitor etc and the share of the building costs (cleaning, heat, supplies, maintenance)comes to: $170K. But if only half the kids pay in full, a few pay half, a few pay nothing, and a few get a discount, you have:
    12 x 7800 = 93600
    5 x 3900 = 19500
    6 x 6000 = 36000
    2 x 0 = 0
    Which is just under $150. Who is paying the extra 20K per class? Not to mention that the 12 parents paying 7800 have ALREADY paid extra. Now throw in a few extra kids, and argue that costs do not go up (since you don’t hire an extra teacher, or pay more to heat the building. You still have a deficit and you’ve taxed the middle class to pay for the poor.

  49. BenShaul says:

    As i mentioned here and in the other columns and posts, If you are being forced to pay “full tuition” that subsidizes the scholarship fees of those who cant pay full -I am in full agreement with your grievances.
    The schools that cap tuition at X percentage of income -regardless of abilty to pay more and those that truly ONLY charge a actual cost tuition are the schools that are accepting on themselves to raise the difference. In those instances, which i beleive are true (I Hope) for the majority of our schools, there is no basis for any resentment, as any dollar above real actual cost is being solicited and isa choice those who give -make to do so.

  50. Elijah says:

    Avi, I was not complaining. I’m just trying to wake certain writers in this comment section to
    1. the fact that rebbeim of an institution receiving tuition discounts in that same institution is merely an element of their salary.
    2. Out of town day school rebbeim have a much harder and fuller daily schedule than pulpit rabbis and mekarvim. (Out of town Rebbeim teach both morning and afternoon, and manage the prep, grading, extra-curricular programming, and parent-communication during their “off” hours)
    3. I do not believe that someone who has put in true effort at making a parnassa (not through the kli kodesh route) and still cannot afford tuition should be turned away.
    4. I do believe that it is irresponsible, unfair, and ultimately coercive to have less vital institutions decide their budgets by banking on tuition breaks in the local day school. It inflates the tuition of those who do make a parnassah so that they are forced to cover the tuition of those klei kodesh. I have no problem with the klei kodesh but I do have a problem with their employers determining their lower salaries based on a formula that relies on a Robin Hood mentality.
    5. Forcing other kodesh institutions to determine their pay scales based on a full cost tuition policy (not the current inflated formula) would go a long way in bringing down the tuition for others and then they will be able to make their own decisions (like the adults that they are) as to which institutions they will support.
    Such an approach is built on respect for those people who live a life of “Yegia Kapecha Ki Sochel Ashrecha VeTov Lach”. Those people who choose a life of “Hashlech Al Hashem Yehavcha VeHu Yichalcelechah” may do so as long as they have bitachon that Hashem will provide the sechar limud for their children and it will not be provided by humans forcing others to pay for it. Let Hashem provide it (through the voluntary donations of others.)

  51. Bob Miller says:


    In America, how exactly does “forcing other kodesh institutions”, as you put it in your Item 5, happen? We need to use more appropriate tools to implement good policies.

  52. Elijah says:

    You are correct. A method of enforcing such policies is exactly the problem. The concept of a Vaad HaKehillah needs to be re-instated, especially in the smaller towns in which many of the same policy makers for the schools are the policy makers (and the sugar-daddies) for the other Kodesh institutions.

  53. Bob Miller says:

    Elijah, since a kehilla in the US has no legal standing to collect taxes for community needs, how does it do its job? How are people protected from policy makers with private agendas?

  54. mycroft says:

    “To adequately own up to the present inequities, it is necessary for schools to operate with complete financial transparency.”

    Until that happens one could naturally assume the worst.
    An important issue is whether or not Yahdus is being limited to relative elites-either economic elites by the financial requirements to live an Orthodox lifestyle or intellectual above average-an average IQ person can’t succeed in a Yeshiva. Is the race to constantly raising the bar unfortunately preventing more and more from passing the bar into Yahadus. I don’t have answers but the issue has to be considered when we make our requirements to belong such as day school education.

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